By Melissa Kasule
A young woman with arthritis has taken part in a campaign to share a more inclusive and realistic representation of the condition.
Izzie Clough, 22 based in Brixton, is involved in the Versus Arthritis campaign It’s not alright, It’s arthritis, in an aim to dispel the myths that arthritis is simply an ‘old person’s disease’ and ‘just a bit of aches and pains’.
At the age of just nine Izzie, pictured above, was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) – the inflammation or swelling of one or more joints, found slightly more common in girls as well as most commonly in pre-school age children or teenagers.
Izzie said: “Initially, I felt very self-conscious of it when I was at school so I very rarely told anyone about it.
“I definitely avoided telling my friends or anyone about it. I think when I have had to tell people their general reactions would be ‘Oh you’re so young’.
“I think for me what has always been the hardest thing is the fatigue that comes with it.
“Having joint pain can be absolute hell and it really stops you sleeping, which again doesn’t help the fatigue. But you also just feel really under the weather all the time.
“Even when I’m kind of well I will still have days where I just feel exhausted and kind of can’t even explain why I haven’t done anything in particular, and that’s really hard because obviously at my age everyone is going out.
“Probably the worst joint affected for me is my knees and it used to feel like if I was walking around one of them had kind of slipped out of place. It’s this sudden feeling of not just pain but real instability in your joints.
“When I’m well and it’s quite well managed with the medication I’m on, it’s usually about managing the medication rather than the condition itself because my medication is immunosuppressant, which is obviously a big deal now because of the whole pandemic, but it just means now being really, really careful.
“I had a really big flare just before my final exam. Luckily universities are quite good, so all through university if it was a closed exam I had extra time and I was allowed to use a computer. Because even when I’m not in a flare my hands are permanently affected by arthritis, so they’re really stiff and some of my fingers aren’t quite in the right place.
“Weirdly, the thing I was most worried about was that I was on the cheer squad and we had all of our end of year events coming up and was worried I was not going to do it. And, I did.”
She added: “The end of that summer I was desperately looking on forums. I needed to talk about it to someone.
“And someone pointed me to Versus Arthritis and they pointed me to Arthur’s Place. I think being able to say I have arthritis but being able to frame it in a more positive way was really helpful.
“It was just amazing hearing people who are my age talking about the same symptoms I have.
“Since I’ve been telling my friends about it for the last 18 months they’ve been really supportive.
“I really just want people to know, especially younger people, they are not alone, they’re not weird, it’s okay they’ve got this condition.”
Arthritis affects more than 10 million people in the UK, two-thirds of whom are under the age of 65. More on Versus Arthritis can be found here.
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